Palace of Westminster from the River Thames

UK: Rail industry bodies have responded to the Queen’s Speech at the state opening of parliament on May 11, in which the Queen set out the government’s plans to invest in infrastructure, ‘transform connectivity by rail and bus’, and ‘invest in new green industries to create jobs, while protecting the environment’. The government reiterated its commitment to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Elaborating on the Queen’s Speech, the government said it aimed to ‘reform our rail and bus networks to deliver a better, greener and more reliable service for passengers, including simpler fares’, with rail as the ‘backbone of a modern, affordable and green transport network’.

A White Paper will contain proposals to ‘end the complicated franchising model and create a simpler, more effective system’, with decisions taken ‘in the interest of passengers’ and new contracts that would ‘get trains running on time, introduce modern ways to pay, make rail more accessible and inclusive, and work more closely with local communities’.

The High Speed Rail (Crewe – Manchester) Bill would provide the powers to build and operate the next stage of the High Speed 2 network. The government would also be setting out a ‘massive programme of rail investment across the north and the Midlands through the Integrated Rail Plan’.


Rail Delivery Group Director General Andy Bagnall said ‘we want to work with the government as part of the planned reform of the railway to further boost connectivity by making fares easier for passengers — allowing people to mix and match fares to get the best deal for their needs and introducing London style tap-in-tap-out capping for commuters in towns and cities across the country’.

HS2 bridge construction hi-vi

Railway Industry Association Chief Executive Darren Caplan said ‘the Queen’s Speech today confirmed the long-awaited Williams Review White Paper on rail reform will be published shortly and, encouragingly, that investing in and improving national infrastructure to transform connectivity — and creating new jobs and skills to drive growth in sectors such as rail — is seen by the government as key to strengthening economic ties across the UK.’

He urged the government to clarify whether the Eastern Leg of HS2 would be included in forthcoming legislation, and said the publication of the Integrated Rail Plan for the Midlands and northern England is ‘a priority’.

Transport for the North Acting Chief Executive Tim Wood said ‘we now need to see commitment to these aims in the upcoming Integrated Rail Plan, including backing the full HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail networks. Alongside a sustained pipeline of investment in our roads and active travel provision, this will support the cross-cutting themes of economic recovery and growth out of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as increasing skills and opportunities for the north’s communities.’

The RMT trade union accused the government of ‘deceiving the British public and transport workers’ by making no mention of a ‘planned cuts agenda’. The union said Network Rail was planning ‘thousands of job losses’ by September.

‘This Queen’s Speech was the government’s opportunity to commit to a historic mass investment in public transport to drive our country forward out of the Covid-19 crisis whilst leading in the fight against climate change in year of the vital COP26 conference, instead we’ve got a paper-thin speech that masks the reality of their cuts agenda across our railways and bus sectors’, said the RMT’s recently elected General Secretary Mick Lynch.